Inside out

Read: Exodus 37-38, Matthew 23:23-39

These days, most everyone has a camera within reach. And many, instead of aiming it at the beauty around them, aim it at themselves. With a bit of makeup and a photo filter or two, anyone can be a model. We count friends, likes, and followers like a game score. Like it really matters.

Jesus referred to people like this as blind guides, hypocrites, wicked, snakes, vipers, and worse.

Exodus 23:25b-26

The Pharisees were excellent showmen. They dressed the part and played it perfectly.  Phineas T. Barnum said in The Greatest Showman, “People come to my shows for the pleasure of being hoodwinked.” People generally don’t want to have to admit that something is wrong. They’d rather cover it up and act as though everything is better than fine.

But here’s the thing, like whitewashed tombs, the more paint that goes on, the more obvious it is to everyone how dirty the truth really is. No amount of paint can cover the stench of death. The whole point in whitewashing graves was so that they could be avoided. Even unintentional contact with a burial mound would result in ceremonial uncleanliness.

The more time we spend trying to cover up the ugliness on the inside, the less time we have to actually deal with it. As difficult as it may be to start, one can achieve far better results by taking care of the inside first. Because by taking care of the inside, the outside will take care of itself.

If you don’t want your inside to show outside, maybe it’s time to clean house. Inside out should be easy, not avoided.

They are blind

Read: Genesis 49-50, Matthew 15:1-20

No one enjoys being called out on their wrong-doings. Generally, if we’ve sinned, we’d rather deal with it quietly rather than have it made public. But when it came to the Pharisees, Jesus almost seemed to enjoy bringing their failures to light. And I’m willing to bet that, when his disciples pointed out how upset the Pharisees were, he already knew they were offended.

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

Matthew 15:12 (NIV)

This being the fact that the Pharisees were trying to call out Jesus and his disciples as unclean because they hadn’t washed their hands before eating while the Pharisees blatantly refused to honour their fathers and mothers claiming whatever help [they] might otherwise have received from [us] is a gift devoted to God (Matthew 15:5). They used their religion as an excuse to disregard the command to honour their parents. Their words made them more unclean than eating with unwashed hands and, when Jesus pointed out this fact, they were offended. He beat the Pharisees at their own game and they didn’t like it.

If you, like the Pharisees, find yourself offended when truth is brought to light, chances are that you are the one who may need to make some changes. Often our own initial response is the best gage for the veracity of a statement.

On the giving end, it is our duty as followers of Christ to proclaim the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). On the receiving end, it is our duty to verify the truth according to the Word of God and make any adjustments necessary to bring ourselves into line with that truth.

We may not be able to control how others see the truth.

Matthew 15:13

… whoever is offended by a plain, seasonable declaration of truth, we should not be troubled at it.

Matthew Henry

But we can control how we receive it ourselves.

Don’t bother

Maybe I’m the only one, but when I read a controversial article online, I can’t help but scroll through the comments. And then I start to get riled up. Some people can be so ignorant! How can they even believe things like that? How can someone agree? How can they disagree? Can’t they even bother to use spell check? My initial reaction is to respond to every ignorant and inane comment right away. On the few occasions I have, I end up regretting it.

If you’re reading this, you have internet access and you’re probably aware that there are thousands of people out there who feel it is their calling to set things straight. They troll news and social media sites looking for topics that have the potential to spark debate and then they light it up. They believe themselves to be enlightened and on top of current social justice issues. They’re right. Every time. I have to resist the urge to respond to these types of people. The book of Proverbs would refer to them as fools, simple minded, wicked, liars. There is no use in responding to these people.

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get a smart retort. Anyone who rebukes the wicked will get hurt.

Proverbs 9:7 (NLT)

Whether online or in “real life”, the best way to respond to these types of people is to not respond at all. But they need to know the truth! Yes, they do. But if they’re not looking for it, reading one comment from you isn’t likely to lead them down the path of enlightenment.

Don’t talk to much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!

Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)

Why would you bother to pour out the wisdom that God has given you into a fool? They won’t receive it. Save it. Don’t join in the foolishness of the simple-minded.

So don’t bother rebuking mockers; they will only hate you. But the wise, when rebuked, will love you all the more.

Proverbs 9:8 (NLT)

This doesn’t mean that we leave this group of people alone entirely. It means that we learn from Kenny Rogers.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Save your wisdom. Save your knowledge of truth. Don’t waste it on those who don’t want it. Don’t bother trying to guide the blind. Don’t try to correct those who won’t accept it. Spend your energy leading those who are searching. And, above all, learn to fear the Lord, not the bored musings of blind fools.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding.

Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 9-10, 1 Corinthians 15:1-32

Better blind than guilty

It is said that ignorance is bliss. To a point, it’s true.

“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”

John 9:41 (NLT)

There is a grace to be had in blindness. You can run right into someone and, as soon as they discover your handicap, you’re forgiven. You can get away with a lot more simply because you aren’t as aware of your surroundings as those with sight.

But if you can see… You’re on the hook for everything. You no don’t have the luxury of being able to run into someone and holding up your white can as as free pass. You are completely accountable for your actions whether they were intentional or not.

Sin is like bumping into someone. For those who are completely unaware of their actions, there is a measure of grace. But for those who have heard the truth—whether they accept it or not—there is accountability.

In a later verse, Jesus went on to say this:

They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.

John 15:22-24 (NLT)

As Christians, there will always be those who doubt, hate, and mock our faith. Even in Jesus’ time, those who saw his miracles refused to believe the Truth. They hated [him] without cause (John 15:25). When we encounter those who claim they can see, but are truly spiritually blind, it is not up to us to set them straight. We can speak the Truth, but only the Holy Spirit can open their eyes.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 14-16, John 9:24-41

Jump up

If you knew Jesus was within shouting distance, what would your reaction be? Would you call out to him? Would you keep calling if those around shushed you? Would you chase after him? What if you called to him and he heard you? What if he called you over? Would you casually approach? Would you hurl yourself toward him?

Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Mark 10:50 (NLT)

This man was blind. He’d heard the stories of the miracles that followed Jesus. By this time in his ministry, Jesus had restored sight to countless blind people. Bartimaeus wanted his take!

Despite the crowd’s less than enthusiastic response to Bartimaeus’ shouts, he continued on until he’d captured Jesus attention. When Jesus finally responded, Bart didn’t wait. He didn’t take the time to weigh his options or make a list of pros and cons. He didn’t even wait for someone to help him up.

He jumped up, shed the thing that would slow him down, and approached Jesus.

Now is the time when we all expect Jesus to make him see. But look at Jesus’ words:

And Jesus said to him, “Go your way. Your faith has healed you.” And instantly the blind man could see! Then he followed Jesus down the road.

Mark 10:52 (NLT)

Jesus didn’t say, “I have healed you,” he said, “Your faith has healed you.” I wonder if Jesus’ words would have been the same had Bart decided to wait for help or if he got up a little slower or if he’d let his coat hold him down.

Bartemaeus’ response to and faith in Jesus made him well. But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus told him to go his way. So what did he do? Go home? No! He followed Jesus down the road. His old life as a blind man was over thanks to Jesus. He didn’t go back. As far as the scripture reads, he didn’t even go back for his coat. He not only left behind his blindness, he left behind the life that was attached to it.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 34-36, Mark 10:32-52

Blind

When I read through the passages leading up to Jesus’ death, I am always baffled at how the very men who should have been first to recognise who Jesus was were the ones who put him to death.

Jesus is standing before the high priest and the priest demands to know if Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus, of course, says that he is. No problem, right?

Big problem!

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict.”

Matthew 26:65 (NLT)

I’m not sure why the priest got so upset when Jesus told him exactly what he wanted to hear. The priest should have been thrilled to finally meet the promised Messiah. Instead, he is enraged because the Messiah doesn’t look like expected. Jesus didn’t come to promote the law, but rather to fulfil it. This went beyond what the priests were able to comprehend.

I wonder if we don’t sometimes act like the high priest at this time. Do we get so caught up in doing church that we forget why we do anything at all? If Jesus were standing in front of us proclaiming himself, would we see him for who he is or would we, like the priest, cry, “Blasphemy!”?

Let us not let the how blind us to the why. Rather than being so concerned about the rule book, let us instead focus on the fact that we’ve been invited to join in action.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 14, Matthew  26:55-75